Fordham Foundation report: Financing high need students

30 Nov

Lyndsey Layton wrote the interesting Washington Post article, Academic success in special education not linked to spending, study finds:

The amount of money spent by school districts on special education varies greatly around the country, and some districts that spend less than others are getting better academic results from students, according to a study released Wednesday.
The study, sponsored by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggests that some districts are overspending on special education, which has become a growing segment of school budgets around the country.
If all districts spent the median amount on special education, it would save $10 billion a year, according to the study, which was written by Nathan Levenson, a consultant and former school superintendent….
“People think intuitively that more spending must mean better outcomes,” Levenson said. “This paper shows that is just not true.”

See, Could Cutting Special Ed. Spending Improve Student Achievement?

Special Education defines special education:

What is Special Education?
There is no single definition of Special Education, some of them are mentioned below. Thus, Special Education is:
• educational programs for students whose mental or physical ability, emotional functioning, etc. require special teaching approaches, equipment, or care within or outside a regular classroom
• programs designed to meet special learning needs of students
• also known as special ed or additional support needs, teaching that is modified or individualized maintenance to students with exceptional needs or disabilities
• specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities
• education, often in separate special schools, for children with specific physical or mental problems or disabilities
• education of physically or mentally disabled children whose needs cannot be met in a mainstream classroom (the Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines special education as an education that is modified or particularized for those having singular needs or disabilities)

Special education covers education for students, which are in want of additional support so as to succeed in studies. It also pertains to education for those students unable to compete in a regular classroom conditions. Since in the United States every child has the right to get an education, irrespective of the intellectual faculties one can receive school education and master basic skills.
For students who are not fitted to a mainstream course some special education services providing separate classrooms. Occasionally, special education services may facilitate children with a particular problem. For instance, children with speech defects may run a speech therapy, and special occupational therapy might be prescribed for students with physical problems. This is common practice in grammar schools on the basis of pull out. Such students will be called out of the classroom to exercise needed procedures, in all other respects they will attend ordinary lessons.

Now and then student with permanent problems like autism could be provided with a special aide in the classroom so that to study on equal terms. Special education doesn’t mean that a child has reduced mental faculties, this is not necessarily so. Fairly often very intelligent students receive services to facilitate their accommodation to the school settings.
Children of preschool age may also receive special education services. Those parents worried about speech, physical delays, or major health problems of their child, may appeal to the Special Education Local Plan Area program as soon as their kid is three if they’re interested in that. According to state and federal law, SELPA must pursue research for those students who prove to be at risk for developmental lag or those with a worsened state of health.

The cost of educating special needs children can be costly to districts.

The New America Foundation posted the article, Individuals With Disabilities Education Act – Cost Impact on Local School Districts:

It is well-established that special education enrollment and aggregate costs have increased markedly in recent years. At the same time, there have not been proportionate increases in federal special education (IDEA Part B) appropriations or state education spending. Regardless of federal and state special education funding, however, local communities under IDEA must provide a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to children with disabilities, no matter how high or low those costs are in the case of an individual child or how high they are for a group of children with disabilities. As a result, special education spending by local districts has consumed a large portion of increased education funding nationally — 40 percent of the increase by one estimate — since the late 1960s.
Larger Population of Students with Disabilities
The population of students served under IDEA has grown at nearly twice the rate of the general education population. During the twenty-five year period between 1980 and 2005, the IDEA population increased by 37 percent, while the general education population grew by only 20 percent. Moreover, students served under IDEA today account for about 14 percent of the total education population, up from about 10 percent in the 1980s.
The sudden increase in the percentage of the student population served by IDEA can be attributed to multiple factors. A significant portion of the increase in special education enrollment can be attributed to greater identification of students with disabilities from birth to age five and these students’ participation in IDEA preschool and early intervention services. Another reason for the increase is that Congress widened the definition of “disabled” under IDEA in 1997 to include the population of “developmentally delayed” children ages three to nine.
Rising Special Education Spending
Primarily because of the quickly expanding population of children with disabilities, special education spending has increased at a much faster rate than general elementary and secondary education spending. During the 1999-2000 school year, the United States spent $50 billion on special education “support” services and an additional $27.3 billion on regular education for disabled students ($77.3 billion in total).1 Special education support costs accounted for 12.4 percent of the $404.4 billion total spending on elementary and secondary education. With regular education expenses included, students with disabilities accounted for 19.1 percent of total national elementary and secondary education spending in 1999-2000, an increase of 13 percent from the 1977-78 school year….
Declining State Support for Special Education
In general, state contributions to special education spending have not kept pace with escalating special education expenditures. In 1987, state funding accounted for 56 percent of special education spending and local funding accounted for only 36 percent.2 In 1999-2000, the average state share of special education spending had dropped to 45 percent, and the average local contribution had risen to 46 percent, based on data from 39 states.3
Local school districts have had trouble covering such a high percentage of the $50 billion spent on special education services. Heavily impacted districts with a disproportionate number of high-need, high-cost disabled students struggle the most, particularly if the district is small or rural. Of all disabled students, approximately one-half of one percent, or around 330,000 students, require more than $100,000 in special education services per year. Given that federal and state funding formulas do not take the distribution of high-cost disabilities into account, districts with concentrations of these high-need students have much more substantial spending obligations….

The Fordham Foundation wrote the report, financing the Education of High-Need Students.


Financing the Education of High-Need Students
November 24, 2013
School Finance
Additional Topics
Matt Richmond
Daniela Fairchild
School districts face an enormous financial burden when it comes to educating our highest-need students. Financing the Education of High-Need Students focuses on three specific challenges that are often encountered when districts—especially small ones—grapple with the costs of serving their highest-need special-education students.
Districts and states could put these recommendations into practice today, without waiting for reforms or help from Washington:
1. District Cooperatives: Many districts—including charter schools, which often comprise their own mini-districts—do not have the requisite size and capacity to serve high-need students effectively and affordably. Multi-district co-ops allow for both economies-of-scale and better service-delivery for these children.
2. Student Funding Based on Multiple Weights: Special education funding systems based on average student needs may be easily administered, but they can also lead to inefficient and ineffective resource allocations. Weighted student funding is a tiered system of resource allocation that allows for a more rational and efficacious distribution of funds, enabling districts with more high-need pupils (or pupils who require more dollars to pay for their IEP-mandated services) to receive more money while jurisdictions that need less receive less. Basing those weights on services needed by children rather than disability diagnoses significantly improves the accuracy of this system.
3. Exceptional-Need Funds: Districts (especially small ones) sometimes find themselves overwhelmed by the high cost of educating one or two particularly needy children. This type of fund, managed and predominantly financed by the state, acts as an insurance mechanism for districts that can’t cover the full cost of educating high-need pupils along with all others under their purview.

Moi discussed learning disabilities in Survey: Most people don’t know what a learning disability is.
Once a learning disability has been diagnosed there are steps parents can take to advocate for their child. Scholastic has great advice for parents in the article, Falling Behind With a Learning Disability. Schools often test children to determine whether a child has a learning disability. Often parents may want to have an independent evaluation for their child.
PBS’ Reading Rockets has great information for parents who want an independent test for their child in the article, Having Your Child Tested for Learning Disabilities Outside of School.


Early warning signs of a learning disability

How to know if your child has a learning disability

If You Suspect a Child Has a Learning Disability

Learning Disabilities in Children

Learning Disabilities (LD)

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